Researchers can now use AARNet to explore a growing number of data collections

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AARNet is much more than fibre, routers and switches – the network underpins the scientific research process as researchers depend on the network infrastructure to share, store, and analyse research data. With the eight Research Data Storage Infrastructure (RDSI) project-funded storage Nodes now operational and interconnected by AARNet, new opportunities for discovery and innovation by the research community have been unleashed.

From under-sea documentary footage and earth observation satellite imagery to genome and ecosystem data, more and more data collections are moving out of individual labs and onto RDSI-funded storage Nodes across Australia where they can be easily accessed, shared and analysed by research groups. Making data collections publicly available on the storage Nodes also means they can be used for other research purposes.

Hundreds of collections are stored on the Nodes. Here’s a snapshot of a few of them:

Insect genomes

The Hoffmann lab at the University of Melbourne in collaboration with researchers at CSIRO and Monash University, is having the genomes of 23 species of Drosophila flies sequenced for the first time, as well as collecting population-level genomic data to investigate natural variation associated with climate response. The Lab is also collecting population-level mosquito genome data as part of the Eliminate Dengue program. These fruit fly and mosquito genome datasets will contribute to understanding how species adapt to climate change and to stopping the spread of Dengue Fever. By making the data publicly available on VicNode, the data is useful not only to the projects the Hoffmann lab is working on but to a range of current and future research projects internationally.

Earth observation satellite imagery

To maximise use and impact of the massive datasets of images taken from space by earth observation satellites, the team at Geoscience Australia’s National Earth & Marine Observations Group have developed the Data Cube using high performance computing and RDSI-funded storage facilities at the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) Node. The Data Cube concept is to chop the Landsat images into tiles and stack them in time sequences covering the same area of ground. This creates something like a geographic time machine, unlocking decades of information about the Australian landscape. The National Flood Risk Information Project is the first large test case for the Data Cube. This project aims to improve the quality, availability and accessibility of flood information in Australia and to raise community awareness of flood risks.

Global reef survey imagery

The Catlin Global Reef Record is creating a global survey of coral reefs using 360˚ imagery and making ocean change visible to everyone. The University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute leads the scientific survey, which began in 2012 with 32 reefs along the length of the Great Barrier Reef and into the Coral Sea. Since then, 112 reefs have been surveyed in Australia and the Atlantic, with many more in progress. Using diver-propelled vehicles, customised HD cameras, and depth sensors, divers can record the full 360˚environment along a two kilometre stretch of reef during a fifty minute dive. With every 360˚ image around 75 Megabytes and around 1000 images collected per dive, and over 500 dives, storing the data safely, making it available for many people and for analysis has been achieved with the help of RDSI-funded storage at the Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation (QCIF) Node. The photographic records from the survey are now openly available, providing an unprecedented source of data for scientists, reef managers, and decision makers.

Healthy human genomes

The Garvan Institute of Medical Research is creating a reference collection of healthy human genomes. The Medical Genomic Reference Bank (MGRB) project is part of a $24 million genomics research collaborative funded by the NSW State Government. The size of the datasets means that downloading them to the researcher’s laboratory is impractical. Instead, researchers will access and analyse the data through tools and compute facilities at the NCI Node.

With the most cost-effective genome sequencing facilities in the world, and genomic collections of international importance such as the MGRB, Australian researchers are positioned to take a leading role in emerging genomics research.

Airborne Research Australia imagery

Airborne Research Australia (ARA) has been collecting data from the air for thirty years. Based at Flinders University, the research institute’s four aircraft, three scientists and pilots, and remote and in situ sensing instrumentation are employed by a variety of research projects. One of their current projects is with an archaeology group looking to detect shipwrecks. ARA flies over the test area and collects high-resolution spectral reflectance data. Spectral sensors collect images in 500 wavelength bands, allowing the scientists to reconstruct the full spectrum of light reaching the camera. By looking for biochemical effects in the plants caused by the uptake of extra iron from decomposing shipwrecks, the team hopes to be able to locate the ships. For the first time ARA data from projects such as this will be available to the wider research community at the eResearch SA Node.


The RDSI project is now complete and has evolved into the Research Data Storage (RDS) project. For more information about the data collections stored on the Nodes, as well as the successor RDS project visit the RDS project website.

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